Review of “My Effing First Amendment,” This American Life (May 4, 2018).
Rosa Parks’s famous day on the bus was staged by seasoned organizers months in advance. She attended workshops that taught activists precisely what to say and do to provoke the right response from the powers that be. If the latest episode of This American Life is to be believed, the same is true of many of the young conservatives who’ve sparked free speech protests on American campuses in the last few years.
Am I the only one who feels profoundly manipulated by this? I doubt it. Regardless, I can now see why some people immediately assumed that Lindsay Shepherd was a conservative plant. I don’t believe that she was. But, as you’ll see, what she did was straight out of the Turning Point playbook.
This episode left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Are these agents provocateurs drawing attention to serious injustices? Or are they merely making mountains out of mole hills to score points in a culture war? I used to think I knew the answer to this question, but I’m somewhat less sure now. Truth be told, I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re getting played.
Of this much I am sure: Courtney Lawton, the counter-protesting prof, comes off as a thoroughly obnoxious and profoundly immature person. I really can’t imagine how a 47-year-old prof could think it appropriate to talk to a 19-year-old student like that—on campus! I would never in a million years talk to a student like that! Nor would any of the profs I know, regardless of their politics. Lawton was way out of line.
Still, the University of Nebraska should have had Lawton’s back. And all of you people who prate on and on about free speech on Facebook should have had her back. But you didn’t. And they didn’t. And that’s telling.
At the end of the day, “My Effing First Amendment” is an inadvertent advertisement for the First Amendment, academic freedom, and libertarians—the only ones, it seems, who reliably stand up for everyone’s freedom of speech.
—John Faithful Hamer